CBSSports.com Player Ratings
Position: Quarterbacks · Running Backs · Wide Receivers · Tight Ends · Kickers · Defense/STs
Range: 1-15 · 16-30 · 31-32
There's room for optimism when it comes to the Vikings DST. Rebounding from an awful 2011, the unit totaled five touchdowns – two on returns, three on defense – and 44 sacks but just 10 interceptions. They were ranked 11th vs. the run (105.8 yards per game allowed) and ninth against the pass (244.2 yards per game allowed). There's hope for the future after they replaced veteran cornerback Antoine Winfield with rookie Xavier Rhodes and added defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd to their line. Their schedule is tough but not as dangerous as others. For now they're among the DSTs you might consider with a final-round pick in drafts.
Projected Fantasy Points: 153.5
The Cowboys DST was among the most disappointing units in 2012. The Cowboys DST was drafted as a starting option last year but finished No. 27 in Fantasy points. They managed just seven interceptions, which was tied for lowest in the NFL, with only 34 sacks, nine fumbles and four defensive touchdowns. Rob Ryan was fired as defensive coordinator, and Monte Kiffin was brought in. The unit will switch from a 3-4 to a 4-3 scheme and run Kiffin's famous “Tampa 2” defense, but anything should be better than last year. We don't consider the Cowboys DST worth drafting in most formats, but they are a unit to watch. If Kiffin can turn this defense around quickly they could be worth adding off the waiver wire.
Projected Fantasy Points: 152.4
The Chiefs DST has potential to be a solid unit in 2013. They just have to play up to their level of talent. The Chiefs have Pro Bowl players in Tamba Hali, Derrick Johnson and Eric Berry, and Justin Houston had double digits in sacks in 2012. But even with that the Chiefs still finished second-to-last in Fantasy points. They were near the bottom or last in sacks (27), interceptions (seven), fumble recoveries (six) and points allowed (425). New defensive coordinator Bob Sutton has his work cut out for him, and we hope the Chiefs DST can improve. They won't get drafted in the majority of leagues, but they should be considered a bye-week replacement in most formats.
Projected Fantasy Points: 151.4
The Titans DST isn't bad, though the stats might not support such a statement. Totaling 39 sacks and 19 interceptions, the squad totaled five defensive touchdowns and a nutty four scores on returns (three by Darius Reynaud). But it still wasn't enough for them to finish as a Top 12 option as they ranked 26th against the pass and 24th against the run. The numbers are surprising considering the overall types of talent they have in all three levels of the defense but the reality is they've struggled to stay disciplined and have found ways to give up gobs of yardage and points despite the perceived talent (a league-worst 29.4 points per game!). You might find yourself picking the Titans up off waivers as a one-week replacement option or if they can put up a strong start but don't draft them.
Projected Fantasy Points: 147.2
The Dolphins DST has the ability to be a quality Fantasy unit in 2013, but it needs to generate more turnovers, and hopefully the addition of free agent Dannell Ellerbe will help. In 2012, the Dolphins were among the league leaders in sacks with 42. They were above average in run defense at No. 13 in yards allowed (1,734) but mediocre in pass defense at No. 27 (3,974 yards allowed). The problem, however, was turnovers. Miami had just 10 interceptions on the season and six fumble recoveries, which ranked in the bottom 10 in the NFL in both categories. If Miami can improve in that area then the Dolphins DST should rise. Go into this season with the unit as a No. 2 Fantasy option on Draft Day, and they can be a useful bye-week replacement if they start off the season playing at a high level.
Projected Fantasy Points: 143.2
You might think the Steelers DST is old and weak and not what they used to be. Technically you'd be right as they finished with worse-than-expected stats in 2012. As the 12th-ranked DST, the unit had 37 sacks but just 10 interceptions with one total touchdown. So despite holding opponents to 19.6 points per game and ranking first against the pass and second against the run, they didn't deliver. Weird, right? The unit remains mostly unchanged save for rookie Jarvis Jones replacing James Harrison and Casey Hampton no longer on the roster. The Jones addition is promising but with five starters playing in their 10th year or more and depth an issue, this unit could make Fantasy owners feel some pain. The AFC North's offenses are getting better and the Steelers defense isn't turning over fast enough, so this might be the year to not overvalue the DST. If you don't get them with a final-round pick, don't shed tears -- it only means someone else reached for them.
Projected Fantasy Points: 141.9
Carolina's defense is trending in the right direction after picking up 39 sacks and holding opponents to 3,568 passing yards and 1,761 rushing yards in 2012 (yes that's not bad). They could use an upgrade in the defensive secondary but got lucky in the NFL draft and picked up defensive tackles Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short with first- and second-round picks respectively. While the team is in a position to be a better defense, their division is loaded with high-powered offenses and their 2013 schedule includes games against powerhouses like New England, San Francisco and the N.Y. Giants. The Panthers aren't worth drafting but could be considered as a multi-week replacement option off waivers once the season gets going, particularly in Week 2 against the Bills and later on when they take on the Jets in Week 15.
Projected Fantasy Points: 141.1
The Redskins DST has plenty of work to do this year after a disappointing campaign in 2012. The Redskins were among the NFL leaders with 21 interceptions, but they struggled to create sacks (32), fumbles (nine) or score touchdowns (four). Getting Brian Orakpo and Adam Carriker back from injury will definitely help the pass rush, and their presence alone could make the Redskins DST a sleeper. Keep an eye on the Redskins DST early in the season, and if they start out playing well consider adding them off the waiver wire.
Projected Fantasy Points: 138.7
A year ago the Lions DST appeared as one of the most promising options in Fantasy. Now, they'll give you a stomach ache. The unit totaled 34 sacks, 11 interceptions and zero touchdowns in 2012, producing 10 or more Fantasy points just four times. They were particularly mediocre vs. the run (1,889 yards and 13 touchdowns allowed) and the pass (3,569 yards, 26 touchdowns) but allowed on average 27.3 points per game and that helped lead to their downfall. They addressed the pass rush by selecting Ezekiel Ansah with their first-round pick and also picked up versatile lineman Jason Jones from the Titans. But until it's proven that those two additions will bring the heat, no one should count on the Lions DST in 2013 even with a fairly decent opening schedule (vs. the Vikings, at the Cardinals, at the Redskins).
Projected Fantasy Points: 138.5
When Rex Ryan took over as the head coach of the Jets they used to have a dominant defense. Not anymore. The Jets struggled in 2012 for the second year in a row, and the DST is no longer a viable option. Maybe that will change in 2013, but the Jets DST should be considered just a No. 2 Fantasy option in the majority of leagues, especially with Darrelle Revis now in Tampa Bay. Rookie Dee Milliner will try and replace Revis, but he has big shoes to fill. We would not draft the Jets DST in the majority of leagues.
Projected Fantasy Points: 138.1
The Eagles DST can only improve this season since they were last in Fantasy points in 2012 with 96 in a standard league. The Eagles DST was the only team that failed to reach 100 points with just eight interceptions, 30 sacks, five fumble recoveries and one defensive touchdown. New defensive coordinator Billy Davis has his work cut out for him, but the Eagles still have plenty of talent to succeed with Trent Cole, DeMeco Ryans and Pat Chung leading the way. And the possible change from a 4-3 to a 3-4 scheme might help as well. Don't draft the Eagles DST in the majority of leagues, but keep an eye on their progress to start the season. If they get off to a good start then add them off the waiver wire.
Projected Fantasy Points: 137.6
The Chargers DST played well in 2012, and they will look to build off that performance this season. The Chargers were a top-10 Fantasy DST last year with 38 sacks, 14 fumble recoveries, nine defensive touchdowns and 14 interceptions. While the overall stats were good, part of the reason for the success was an easy schedule. The Chargers had 10 games with double digits in Fantasy points in a standard league but three games with five points or less. They also had three huge games against the Chiefs (twice) and Jets with at least 24 Fantasy points in each contest. We expect the Chargers DST to continue to play well this season, and they are worth drafting with a late-round pick as your starting option.
Projected Fantasy Points: 137.2
The Bills DST had a lot of hype in 2012 after signing Mario Williams, but the addition didn't change much. The Bills DST was a middle-of-the-pack option with 30 sacks (one more than 2011), and they allowed 395 points, which was tied with Denver for third worst in the NFL. The Bills DST did have 29 takeaways (20 interceptions) and scored four touchdowns, but the unit has plenty of work to do under new coordinator Mike Pettine, who held the same position with the Jets last year. The Jets were known for creative blitz packages, which should help the pass rush, but this unit has a lot to prove before Fantasy owners can trust them.
Projected Fantasy Points: 135.3
The Colts defense didn't do a whole heck of a lot to take steps forward in 2012, ranking 29th vs. the run and 21st against the pass. Robert Mathis led the way with eight of the team's 32 sacks while Darius Butler and Vontae Davis totaled seven of the team's 12 interceptions. The loss of Dwight Freeney might hinder the pass rush's potential but the team's additions of pass rusher Erik Walden, lineman Ricky Jean Francois, cornerback Greg Toler and safety LaRon Landry along with rookie pass rusher Bjoern Werner restock the roster with some hope for an improvement. They remain a longshot to help Fantasy owners as anything more than a one-week replacement option off waivers.
Projected Fantasy Points: 131.7
The Saints defense will undergo some significant changes in 2013 as it switches from a 4-3 front to a 3-4 scheme under the eye of new coordinator Rob Ryan. It can't get worse than what they've had of late. In 2012 the defense registered 30 sacks, 11 forced fumbles, 15 interceptions and a league-worst 440.1 total yards per game. One big issue is that switching schemes doesn't always work so well, and another is that coach Ryan has struggled in stops in Oakland, Cleveland and Dallas to build effective defenses. Though they added some promising players like Keenan Lewis, Victor Butler and rookies Kenny Vaccaro and John Jenkins, we wouldn't run the risk of drafting the Saints DST.
Projected Fantasy Points: 129.5